Draw forth your hands away from idol worship

מרן הגאב"ד שליט"א
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משכו ידיכם מעבודה זרה


ויקרא משה לכל זקני ישראל ויאמר אלהם משכו וקחו לכם צאן למשפחתיכם ושחטו הפסח.

And Moshe summoned the Elders of Israel, and said to them:

Draw and take for yourselves a sheep for each family,

 and slaughter it as a (korban) Pesach” (Shemos 12:21)


The Medrash[1] on this verse says משכו ידיכם מעבודה זרה; draw forth your hands away from idol worship.

It is customary that on the night of Bedikas Chometz we put out ten pieces of chometz for the sole purpose of finding them and fulfilling the mitzvah of Bedikas Chometz.  The question is obvious: is this really called “searching” for chometz?  What is the point in putting out the pieces of chometz only to find them and remove them?

            Perhaps we can explain this question based on the following: commentators throughout the ages have explained that eliminating the chometz is not merely getting rid of any leavened food, but also eliminating the real chometz, the Evil Inclination, which remains inside, in the very soul of man.

The Radvaz writes[2]

I will answer what you have asked me, why chometz on Pesach is more severe than any other forbidden things in the Torah, to the point where we are obligated to search every hole and crevice and eradicate it.  Not only is it forbidden to be eaten, but it cannot even be seen or found.  Even the smallest amount of it is forbidden (unlike other forbidden things which have a specified measurement, K’Zayis, for example), and it is not nullified at all (unlike other things which are nullified in sixty[3]).  We don’t find such stringencies with any other prohibition in the Torah.

Answers the Radvaz:

Our Sages tell us in the Medrash that chometz on Pesach alludes to the Yetzer Hora, the Evil Inclination.  The Yetzer Hora is like the yeast in the dough, which, when not held in check, causes the dough to ferment and sour.  Therefore, one is obligated to obliterate any trace of it, to remove it from oneself, and to search all the crevices of one’s mind, for even the smallest amount of it is not nullified.

We see that chometz represents the negative parts of man, his evil inclinations.  Similarly, the Zohar[4] juxtaposes what is written regarding chometz and what is written regarding avodah zora, idol worship.  By chometz the Torah states [5]ולא יראה לך שאור, nor may leaven be seen in your possession, and concerning idol worship it says אלהי מסכה לא תעשה לך[6], you shall not make yourselves molten gods.  For this reason we find many similarities in the laws concerning chometz and avodah zara, such as the obligation to burn it (as opposed to merely discarding it), and the criteria for its nullification (i.e. that it is not בטל, etc.), which we do not find elsewhere.[7]

Therefore, prior to Bnei Yisrael taking the sheep for the korban Pesach, they were commanded to get rid of their internal chometz by drawing themselves away from idol warship, the internal chometz, i.e., the Evil Inclination—draw forth your hands away from idol worship משכו ידיכם מעבודה זרה.

The Jewish festivals are not simply holidays enacted to commemorate historical events and miracles of the past.  Rather they are days of renewal in the present, and the holy light which shone in the past during those events and miracles are reawakened each festival at its particular time.  The days of Pesach are intended for us to get rid of the chometz inside us just as we get rid of the physical chometz, and to come closer to G-d.  These days have a special סיעתא דשמיא, Divine assistance, which enables us to come closer to G-d.  When our forefathers left Egypt they did not deserve to be redeemed for they had sunk so low in Egypt, as the שר של ים, the angel governing the sea, protested, הללו עובדי עבודה זרה והללו עובדי עבודה זרה, these (the Jews) are idol worshippers and these (the Egyptians) are idol worshippers, i.e., why should Bnei Yisrael be redeemed if they are in fact no better than the Egyptians?  And yet, G-d in his mercy redeemed them and brought them closer to Him, on wings of eagles.  Just as this took place many years ago, so too is this power prevalent nowadays.  Each year when Pesach rolls around, there is a special power during this time and we are able to attain greater spiritual heights that ordinarily we are not capable of reaching.[8]

            Rav Chaim of Sanz quotes his teacher Rav Naphtoli of Ropshitz[9] who expounds homiletically on the passuk כי הוא יום תחלה למקראי קדש זכר ליציאת מצרים, for that day is the prologue to the holy convocations, a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt, that תחלה למקראי קדש, the prologue, or prerequisite, for holiness is זכר ליציאת מצרים, remembering what happened to our forefathers at the Exodus from Egypt, how they were taken out from the depths and raised to loftiness.  When we have this image in our minds, we can draw strength to pull ourselves up to great heights in Torah and fear of Heaven.

As the Arizal says, anyone who is meticulous about getting rid of chometz on Pesach is guaranteed that he will not come to sin the whole year.  The source for his words is found in the Zohar[10] which states that destroying the chometz symbolically represents getting rid of the Yetzer Hora, and by nullifying the Yetzer Hora, sins and their resultant punishments are nullified as well.

We can now understand the reason for placing the pieces of chometz in order to find them and burn them.  The chometz is the Yetzer Hora within us.  We give the Yetzer Hora sustenance, and it’s because of our sins that it festers and grows.  It is therefore incumbent upon us to uproot it—we created that “chometz” and now we are responsible to look for it and get rid of it.

Rav Pinchas of Koritz, the great student of the Baal Shem Tov, said[11]

 The main point of getting rid of the chometz is getting rid of the avoda zora.  Hence, by King Yoshiyahu, the king who cleansed the land of idolatry, it states[12] for such a Pesach offering had not been celebrated… This is also the reason the passuk[13] “You shall observe the festival of Matzos” follows the passuk[14] “You shall not make yourselves molten gods.”  If all Bnei Yisrael would burn the chometz with this intention, namely, that they are burning the avoda zora, the Evil Inclination, the exile would be easier to bear.[15]

Let us follow the path of our fathers, check the chometz that resides within us and burn away the idol worship from our hearts and in this way ease the yoke of exile, till we merit the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash where onc






[1] מדרש רבה שם

[2] שו"ת חלק ג' סימן תקמ"ו

[3]  Something becomes nullified if it constitutes less than a sixtieth of the majority of the specified item.

[4] ח"ב דף מ' ע"ב, ודף קפ"ב ע"א

[5] שמות י"ג: ז'

[6] שמות ל"ד: י"ז

[7] For further insight, see הגדה של פסח ברית הלוי להקדוש מהר"ש אלקבץ פי"א-י"ב

[8] For further insight see דרך ה'  on מועדים andקדושת לוי  on שבועות

[9] See הגדה של פסח מנחת אשר

[10] זוהר ח"ג רפ"ב ע"ב

[11]קל"ב   אמרי פנחס לערב פסח עמ'

[12] מלכים ב' כ"ג:כ"ב

[13] שמות ל"ד:י"ח

[14] שמות ל"ד:י"ז

[15] For further insight see הרוקח הלכות פסח רע"א ספר